Protect your Business with these Active Directory Security Best Practices

Bineesh Mathew | January 10, 2022 | 223 views

information_security_blog
Every organization's information security teams safeguard AD because it is required for a variety of vulnerable functions such as network access, credentialing, and authentication. In addition, every time users, applications, IoT devices, and other critical network connections connect to an enterprise's systems, they require AD. Knowing this fact, hackers always target an active directory. Therefore, businesses must adhere to active directory best practises.

The 2018 healthcare.gov hack is one example of a severe AD breach. Using stolen credentials, attackers could access the database and expose over 75,000 files containing personal data (PII).

Another example is how hackers breached Virgin Mobile's office network in Saudi Arabia, gaining access to the company's email system and Active Directory domain controller, and selling stolen data on private dark web forums.

Semperis, a pioneer in identity-driven cyber resilience for businesses, conducted a survey on cyber disasters and found the following:

  • 84% of organizations consider that impact of an Active Directory attack can jeopardize businesses.
  • 97% of organizations believe that AD is mission-critical.

In this article, we will discuss a few critical Active Directory Security best practises that businesses should follow to strengthen their defences against cyberattacks and fraud.


Role of Active Directory Security in Cyber Attacks

An Active Directory security strategy that is proactive and dynamic but is not prioritized can have severe consequences. Active Directory is a significant target for cybersecurity hackers because it centralizes user access and authorization across all company levels. Once inside the system, cyberattackers have the ability to raise their privileges on a regular basis, granting them access to a wide range of network resources. One security breach in Active Directory can therefore put a company's entire digital infrastructure at risk, allowing hackers to steal sensitive data from all user accounts, databases and apps.


What are Best Practices for Active Directory Security?

Security experts have developed a set of best practices to combat the numerous flaws and exploits that can be used to gain access to Active Directory. Let us look into some of them.


Maintain an Inventory

You must know everything there is to know about an AD to keep it clean and secure. Therefore, you should document naming standards and critical security regulations in addition to every user, service account, machine, and access group.

A detailed, comprehensive inventory of your entire system is the most effective active directory security strategy for adhering to the highest standards of AD cybersecurity. Identifying and categorizing all of the computers, devices, users, domains, and name conventions for your organisational units should be among your top priorities.


Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

  • MFA blocks more than 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks.

According to Microsoft, “You can help prevent some of these attacks by banning the use of bad passwords, blocking legacy authentication, and training employees on phishing. However, one of the best things you can do is to just turn on MFA.”

Multi-factor authentication is another critical active directory best practise that organizations should follow. Hackers can easily access remote users' computers, often without their knowledge. Using multi-factor authentication (MFA), companies can protect remote devices effectively. Before granting access to an MFA solution, a user must pass two or more verifications successfully. This effectively blocks hackers from gaining access to active directories.

The current multi-factor authentication methods include push notification, one-time password, email/SMS code, two-factor token, and biometrics. The following data illustrates how organizations fare with multi-factor authentication.

  • Only 26% organizations use multi-factor authentication.
  • With 68% of use, mobile push notifications are the most common authentication method.


Establish a Strong Password Policy

Enforcing a strong password policy is another critical best practise for active directory security. AD should be able to force users to change their passwords on a regular basis.

Password policy can be used to improve network security by imposing stricter account lockout settings on privileged accounts. If users who have access to sensitive data and applications are locked out of their accounts, they will face a more involved authentication process.


Limit Access to a Privileged Group


"Practice the principle of least privilege. Do not log into a computer with administrator rights unless you must do so to perform specific tasks. Running your computer as an administrator (or as a Power User in Windows) leaves your computer vulnerable to security risks and exploits. Simply visiting an unfamiliar Internet site with these high-privilege accounts can cause extreme damage to your computer, such as reformatting your hard drive, deleting all your files, and creating a new user account with administrative access." 

- Indiana University (Best practices for computer security)

Employee levels define the level of access an employee requires to perform their job. Access to Active Directory should be restricted to employees who require it to perform their jobs properly. Complete access is provided to domain administrators and other privileged groups.

Limiting AD access to a privileged group is an excellent active directory security best practice to avoid frauds and safeguard your business.


Educate Your Employees

One of the main challenges of ensuring cybersecurity is that most employees are unaware of the vulnerabilities. Therefore, businesses must educate employees about the risks associated with gaining access to Active Directory and other official business accounts. As a result, cybersecurity is everyone's responsibility, not just the IT team.

Summing Up

Active Directory is the most vulnerable document in a company because it contains sensitive information that can put organisations at risk. Because of this, it is the responsibility of every employee to investigate and stay protected. Top IT management has to ensure everyone follows the cybersecurity policies within the company monitoring it regularly, especially the active directory best practices set within the company.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why is it essential to protect your Active Directory?

If a cyber-attacker gains access to your Active Directory, they will have access to your entire connected database, user accounts, all kinds of information, and applications. This could put your business at risk.


Can active directories be hacked?

Yes, active directories can be easily hacked. Recent cyberattacks have frequently targeted enterprises' active directories, which manage thousands of computers and user accounts.

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Secure-24, an NTT Communications company, has 17 years of experience delivering mission critical application hosting, comprehensive managed IT, cloud, and security services to enterprises worldwide. Secure-24’s focus on superior service, support, governance and compliance has driven industry-leading client satisfaction rates.

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